Capote’s plea accepted; he’ll serve 3 years in prison on manslaughter charge
June 4, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Eduardo Capote was sentenced Friday to three years in prison and three years on parole for his role in the January 2009 death of Richard Lopez.
Fourteenth Judicial District Judge Shelley Hill accepted Capote's plea agreement Friday afternoon in Routt County District Court. Capote pleaded guilty to manslaughter in April after a Routt County jury in February could not agree on his guilt to second-degree assault charges.
Capote and his brother, David Capote, both of Miami, were involved in a fight in downtown Steamboat on Jan. 1, 2009, which carried into Jan. 2 and led to Lopez's death Jan. 5.
Deputy District Attorney Rusty Prindle described the incident as a tragedy, a sentiment echoed Friday by District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham and Capote's attorney, Charles Feldmann.
"It was a tragedy because it didn't have to happen; it was a tragedy because it shouldn't have happened," Prindle said.
Lopez's sister, Mary Ventura, and his son, Nicholas Lopez, were not in court for the sentencing because Nicholas was graduating this week. Both sent letters that were read in court Friday.
In her letter, Ventura described the night of the fight and how she learned that her brother was flown to Denver. She blamed the Capote brothers for her brother's death.
"I hold you and your brother David responsible for the death of my brother, Richard Lopez," Ventura wrote in the letter read by Oldham. "You are the reason my brother is no longer here."
Ventura's letter also described her time waiting at the hospital as doctors tried to save her brother's life.
"I sat with him four solid days hoping and praying the Lord would spare his life," she wrote. "Have you ever had to pray for a life, Mr. Capote?"
Several members of the Capote family were in court for the sentencing, including Eduardo's wife, daughter and brother.
Eduardo and David Capote were charged in connection with the fight with Lopez and his two companions. The altercation began after the two groups insulted one another about jukebox song choice at a downtown Steamboat restaurant and bar. The groups later crossed paths again on the streets of downtown Steamboat. The defense and prosecution provided differing accounts of what happened next, but the end result was that after being hit by Eduardo Capote, Lopez fell to the asphalt and slammed his head. His cause of death was ruled as severe head and brain trauma.
In the February trial, David and Eduardo Capote were found not guilty of third-degree assault related to fighting with Lopez's friends.
Feldmann said the incident was a tragedy for both families because Eduardo Capote now is going to be separated from his wife and child.
"Sadly, when we all leave this courtroom, and this file is closed, there still won't be justice," Feldmann said Friday with Eduardo Capote sitting at his side. "Mr. Lopez will still be gone. Mr. Capote will leave today for a Department of Corrections prison sentence."
After the attorneys finished, Hill asked Eduardo Capote whether he would like to address the court. He declined.
Hill then reiterated that she will accept the plea deal.
"I don't believe anybody in this courtroom believes for a second that you intended to cause the death of this young man, but you did," Hill said. "Whatever your reasons were for striking Mr. Lopez, they were senseless."
After the court was adjourned, the Capote family stayed in the courtroom, with Eduardo Capote reaching over the courtroom railing to say goodbye to his daughter and family.
Capote has served 55 days in Routt County Jail. Prosecutors said he will serve the remainder of his time at a prison to be determined by the Colorado Department of Corrections.